The majority of mastiffs still perform the task that marked their origin thousands of years ago: the taming of the first ruminants and the need to protect herds from predators.

We must look for the origin of the Spanish mastiff around these first tamings, which does not discard the possibility that the first tamed dogs in the Iberian Peninsula took part in its formation to carry out this duty.

We are not completely sure of the affirmed tibetan ancestry that is constantly allocated in the cynofile literature. There is neither detailed information that confirms it even as a hypothesis nor is it possible to find in the same bibliography authors quote, the sources that lead them to this conclusion. It is common that most authors restrict themselves to repeating what others said without doing research on its real origin.

What seems to be documented is the presence of dogs in the herds that went along with the Romans and if they had really been cattle dogs they would have provided their blood to that of the autochthonous ones.

The later introduction of sheep coming from the African continent in the Iberian Peninsula could also bring forward other canine castes in the formation of the peninsular cattle dog.

The real history of the Mastiff begins with the establishment of "Honest Council of the Cattle-owners' Guild " in 1273, though it is already recognized the existence of transhumant cattle activity in times of the Iberians.

This legal organization of the extensive ranched cattle and the great economic projection that is going to obtain the sector in relation to the selection of the merino sheep is extremely important for the selection of the Mastiff. The importance of guard dogs in herds is well reflected in the laws that regulated The Cattle-owners' Guild and in numerous bylaws that guaranteed from the daily nourishment up to the purity of the race, and also in the severe fines that were imposed for the theft of a mastiff. People used to say at that time that "one had a better rest sleeping in a wool warehouse than that the retinue of the king could have".

These were the excellent conditions the race kept in up to the first decades of the XIX century: the decay of The Cattle-owners' Guild, which is definitely abolished in 1836 and the reduction of the number of wolves, whose populations covered at the beginning of the XX century almost the totality of the Peninsula whereas fifty years later was cut down to the half. Only cattle raisers from the mountains of León were worried about this situation which would deeply affect the condition and evolution of the race.

The Spanish cattle dog par excellence is philogenetically related to the rest of European and Asian races dedicated to the ancient task of guarding and watching over the domestic cattle.

This type of servant canine must have been very common in Europe and Asia, or even in the north of the African continent up to recent times, and it was often present in all those places where the cattle, mainly sheep and goats, had to live in the same place with its most dangerous predator, the wolf.

There are still cattle dogs in the Caucasus and Russia, in Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia, Nepal, Tibet, Tedjikistan, Morocco, Georgia and probably in many more. In Europe, they live on at least in Yugoslavia, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia and there must have been other castes that took the same way as its wild ancestor, once the wolf had almost disappeared at the beginning of the XX century and the cattle dog had therefore done away with its raison d'être.

Mosoloid-lupin, thick-growing hair, craniofacial divergent lines, austerity, great physical resistance and aptitudes as guard cattle dog, are common features in all cattle dogs all over the world. Hence, people keen on breeding these dogs should preserve with much zeal these attributes.


The capacity to resist treks of up to thirty kilometres for several days and the short need for food are registered in the history of the transhumance.

The maternal capacity and the fortress of the race are well depicted in a study elaborated in 1980 (the date is important as far as the recent time is concerned). "In normal conditions, both in the country or in mountain passes, the female dog prepares the den digging and getting the bed ready under any bush where she makes room for her puppies and stays with them during their first living days". The study goes on: "In the following days the female dog goes out with the cattle and returns to nurse the babies and to stay with them for the night.

The breeder must take into account the lack of these characteristics as it can be a reason to take those affected examples out of the breeding program. "Modern breeders" should not be proud of the number of artificial inseminations they make and their ability to breed puppies with baby bottles.

The obsession in the selection of concrete features (enormous skins, flat craniums, parallel craniofacial lines, exceeded thorax, too short snouts and the systematical elimination of others (the rich chromatic variety for example) can unnecessarily turn a functional race into a memory of the past. The breeding trend directed to obtain more excessive and massive specimens or with more wrinkles that dignity is not making healthier, useful and beautiful mastiffs but much on the contrary.

International zootechnical authorities are starting to check the selective breeding in those cases where the proper fortress and morphology of the race are not respected.

The ability to guard the Cattle stands out among the qualities of the Mastiff and it has been developed by stock breeders along the centuries. It is surprising even among the connoisseurs of the race the link mastiffs manage to create with the herd. They protect sheep having just given birth or small herds lost in the mountain until they are found or even come back from the comfort of the sheepfold in full night to look for them. We also find mastiffs very often in foreign herds or looking for the herd they unwillingly left.

Some of them with exagerated zeal do not allow the approach of other examples of the same race in the flock. Even the owner can have conflicts with the dog by hitting the animals or simply by appearing in the enclosure of the cattle at midnight.

The specialist in canine behaviour, D. Rafael Casado, defines this way the functional character of the race: "The behavioral idiosyncrasy of a specimen when it is genetically suitable is spontaneously shown in its own environment, where we find the desirable circumstances that develop its function. The culture of transhumance which even established the number of necessary examples in every flock has been a suitable frame for the selection and development of the race".

We find the following quote referring to the system that built up this dog race in a recent and exhaustive publication on transhumance: (In the XVI century) "Serranos (highlanders)" carried out for the first time in Europe - and thus, in the world - the first genetic selection towards a concrete aim: the delicacy of wool (…) All this in a rustic and indefatigable race, capable of running more than 30 km a day (…) Besides, together with the merino race also some canine races developed and perfected themselves -mastiff from Leon-, equine, bovine (…) and porcine, perfectly adapted to the environment in which they live.